Wout van Aert won the E3 Saxo Classic on Friday. Chances are high he’ll win at least a handful of other races this season, a few of which are more than likely to be Grand Tour stages. Wout van Aert wins a lot. Which is probably why he let his teammate, Christophe Laporte, take the win at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday.
After dropping the lead pack on the penultimate climb up the Kemmelberg, Laporte and van Aert built an unassailable two-minute lead over the last fifty kilometers, cruising easily to the line. As they approached the finish hand-in-hand, chatting and trading congratulations, van Aert gently pushed his teammate to cross the line first and take the win at the Belgian Classic.
After the race, van Aert mentioned his recent win at E3 Saxo and his impending goals as to the reasoning behind his not racing for the win. He then turned his focus on Laporte.
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“Christophe also had a difficult start to the season due to illness. He is such a team player that it was an easy decision,” van Aert said after the conclusion of a cold and soggy Gent-Wevelgem, a race he won in 2021.
But two of the most luminous names in cycling have questioned van Aert’s display of teamsmanship.
“It’s his choice to let a teammate win,” the Belgian cycling legend said. “But I wouldn’t have done it.”
Three-time Gent-Wevelgem winner Tom Boonen weighed in as well, saying that he’s “also helped teammates to the win, but never in such a situation.”
“This looked good for the team’s marketing but I don’t know if I would have done it. Gent-Wevelgem is Gent-Wevelgem,” he added. “Wout is going to regret it.”
Boonen also wondered what such a victory would mean to Laporte, as it’s unlikely he would have been able to hold pace with van Aert in a head-to-head sprint.
“Do you want to win like this?” Boonen asked.
In the immediate aftermath of the race, that wasn’t something Christophe Laporte seemed terribly concerned about.
“Wout asked me if I wanted to win,” Laporte said. “It’s incredible. It's a pleasure. I want to thank Wout for everything. I've never won a Classic before, and now I'm so proud. I think of my family and my little boy. It has taken so much sacrifice to get to this point.”
Regardless of which of the pair crossed the line first, Jumbo-Visma made history by becoming the first team to win Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, E3 Saxo Classic, and Gent-Wevelgem in the same season.
Michael Venutolo-Mantovani is a writer and musician based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He loves road and track cycling, likes gravel riding, and can often be found trying to avoid crashing his mountain bike.